Bodykind Festival October Totnes 13th – 15th October 2017
The world's first ever festival of Body Acceptance, the 'Bodykind Festival' is being held in Totnes from 13th-15th October
To discover more about the event, the artists performing and how this incredible festival will address prejudice on issues such as; size, age, sexuality, colour, disability and gender please contact the Festival Director Dinah Gibbons via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saltstone Caring Autumn Walk
Saltstone Caring is a registered charity whose aim is to promote the independence, physical and mental well-being of older, isolated or vulnerable people living in Kingsbridge, Salcombe or the surrounding area and on Sunday October 8th are holding a Half Marathon Circular Walk from Bovey Tracey
For more details, registration and sponsorship forms, email: email@example.com or telephone 01548 854588
The Rural Oscars 2017 – Nominations Are Now Open
Get involved and support rural businesses in the constituency. The Countryside Alliance Rural Oscars has come around again this year, and nominations are now open for local businesses and enterprises to win an award.
These awards celebrate the best of our local businesses which makes a contribution to our local economy, promotes our rural heritage, celebrates our great local produce, and supports our rural communities.
You can put forward your candidate in five different categories:
- A Local Food/Drink Award,
- A Village Shop/Post Office Award,
- A Rural Enterprise Award,
- A Butcher Award,
- A Pub Award
Each of the four categories celebrates a different integral part of our community. So if you know of a star business that goes that extra mile, please consider submitting their name for a Rural Oscar and give them the chance to get the national recognition they deserve.
Nominations close on the 13th of November. You can find out more about this here.
Join The South West Coast Path Challenge 2017
This October 'The Challenge' returns to the South West Coast Path. Your Challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to help beat the record for the number of miles of Coast Path covered collectively in a month - and raise vital funds for the upkeep and improvement of this beautiful trail.
Join one of the organised events throughout October, or set yourself a personal challenge. Walk, jog, skip, hop or run as much or as little of the Path as you like – it is totally up to you! Grab your friends, family and colleagues, head down to your favourite part of the Path and achieve something amazing together.
The Challenge raises money for two registered charities - the South West Coast Path Association, and the National Trust. They work together to care for and improve the Path, ensuring the unique and precious coastal landscape of the South West can be enjoyed on foot, for free, now and in future generations.
Registration is just £10 and includes an official 2017 Challenge t-shirt. You can either add a donation or fundraise. Your support makes a real difference to the millions of people who come from near and far to explore, keep fit or find peace on the Coast Path each year – thank you!
You can find out more details here
New Post Office in Paignton
I was pleased to hear that a new Post Office is scheduled to open on Tuesday the 10th of October at Gilletts, 79 Kings Ash Road, Paignton, TQ3 3TY.
It will be a local style branch and customers will be able to carry out a wide range of Post Office transactions alongside retail purchases.
The new service will offer longer opening hours, with the Post Office opening hours in line with the retail business and will be open from 6.30 am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and from 7am to 11pm on Sundays.
Salmon Five Point Approach
The Environment Agency is launching an initial consultation on the options which have been developed to meet the Salmon Five Point Approach Commitment of "further reducing the exploitation of salmon by net and rod fisheries".
The EA are seeking input on the proposed options to control the exploitation of salmon from our coasts and rivers in England and on the Border Esk. You can make comments via the EA consultation portal which will run until 9 October 2017. Responses can be made online or by post, as an individual or as part of a wider group or organisation. You can contact the Salmon 5 Point Five Point Approach Team on 03708 506 506 or S5PA@environment-agency.gov.uk.
Identify theft reaches epidemic levels. Guard your personal details.
Fraudsters are obtaining personal information, such as names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details, by hacking computers, trawling social media, stealing mail, tricking people to disclose their details, or buying information through the 'dark web'. And they're using it to pretend to be that individual for their own financial gain, applying for loans or store cards in their name for example.
A vast amount of personal data is available online; and statistically, victims are more likely to be in their 30s and 40s, often because of the amount of information about them that has been gathered online. Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service's Manager Steve Gardiner says "Most victims will be totally unaware that information about them has been taken by someone else and it's only when they spot an unexplained transaction on their statement, or they get a call from the bank to query an attempted transaction, that they realise. And sometimes that's too late."
So what can you do to avoid becoming a victim of ID theft and fraud arising from it?
• Take care about the amount of personal information that you voluntarily post online, particularly to social media sites. Think about what someone else might be able to do with that information about you if they found it online. Be aware and check, especially before you post your address or date of birth, that you are using an official and secure website.
• Use anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes, and keep your computer's firewall up to date. Most threats to cyber security can be removed by using these.
• Don't ever share your passwords. Passwords are your first line of defence against cyber criminals online, so don't share them or write them down. The same is true for Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). Don't share that either. Here's an article on Martin Lewis', Money Saving Expert website, about password security.
• Make passwords and PINs 'strong'. Don't use your date of birth, your child's or pet's name; and try to include a mix of characters – upper and lower case, and numbers. Aim for a minimum of 10 characters in a password.
• Don't use the same password or PIN for more than one account.
• Shred all your financial documents before your throw them away.
More information about guarding your personal details is available on Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service's website.
The People's Postcode Lottery
The People's Postcode Lottery is accepting applications for the latest round of funding, but will close on the 28th August
Both charities and community groups are eligible to apply for the grants of between £500 and £20,000.
The funding will be allocated through one of three Trusts, which support different categories of projects:
People's Postcode Trust seeks applications for projects that focus on the prevention of poverty, promotion of human rights, equal rights and conflict resolution for some of society's most vulnerable groups.
Postcode Local Trust supports wildlife, sustainability, play areas and green spaces.
Postcode Community Trust focuses on grass-roots sports, arts, recreation and healthy living programmes.
Over 400 projects were awarded with grants in the last funding round. With previously funded projects ranging from sports clubs, to mental health groups, to wildlife conservation charities, this is a fantastic opportunity for groups to access funding to make a difference in the local community.
For more information on how to apply for funding, please visit the Trusts' websites:
A new contract for children's services which will go out to tender at the end of this year. The new contract relates to children's services across Devon, Torbay and Plymouth and includes school nursing, mental health and additional needs.
Over the last few months local health and social care professionals, clinicians, partner organisations and patient representatives have been developing ideas to form proposals for how future services for children and young people might look. The report gives details of lots of engagement work that has been carried out across Devon that has already influenced these developments.
Before any decisions are made, there is a final opportunity to comment or raise questions, but before submitting your views please do read the engagement document first.
The direct link to the survey which runs until 15 September can be found here
Easy read versions are also available and hard copies can be obtained by phoning 01803 652480 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
One Council - Have your say
South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council have now launched their consultation on a proposal to create one single new council.
Although South Hams and West Devon already share one workforce their political structures and decision making processes have remained completely separate.
However, in July the majority of councillors from both authorities voted to consult the public, their partners and local businesses on whether they should bring the two political structures together and create One Council.
South Hams and West Devon say that this would save them half a million pounds a year and go towards closing a predicted funding gap of £1.9 million by 2020.
However, before they decide whether they would like to submit a proposal to the secretary of state, who will make the final decision, the councils would like the public to have their say. The consultation is now open and closes on Sunday 8 October.
The consultation will take a number of different forms. There is a dedicated website, including an online survey and every household will receive a postcard telling them how they can find out more information.
Between now and the beginning of October, the councils will also be holding events in towns and parishes, where people can talk to their councillors and find out more information.
The consultation will run from now until midnight on the 8 October. After the consultation closes, councillors from both authorities will consider the feedback from the consultation and make their final decision whether to submit to the secretary of state or not, at full council meetings towards the end of October.
Click here for more information on the consultation.
Consultation on Introducing CCTV in English Slaughterhouses
I have long been a supporter of making CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses and I am pleased that the government have now announced a consultation on this.
Measures like this will help ensure the UK is a world leader on animal welfare issues and the proposals will make it necessary for slaughterhouses to record all areas where live animals are present.
Authorised officers such as official veterinary surgeons would have unrestricted access to footage, reassuring consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced.
These proposals should help to increase public confidence in the welfare standards of Great British food and you can find out more about the consultation via the following link.
Brixham welcomes an exciting new arts experience
Torbay's Heritage Lottery Funded Great Place Scheme is building momentum and a series of adventurous arts events is helping to put Brixham and Torbay firmly on the cultural map.A new type of arts event is coming to South Devon this September.
THE TALE will guide visitors on a journey of discovery around the coastal area of Torbay – from the streets of Torquay, through hidden coves and historic harbours, to the quarry of Berry Head Nature Reserve. Along the way, you'll encounter artworks and performances by artists of international acclaim, made especially for Torbay. Inspired by the ideas of writer Philip Hoare, whose boyhood experiences of Torbay shaped his future, The Tale offers the chance to experience the hidden stories, sounds and dreams of the bay like never before. The Tale will take place over three long weekends in September: 8-10 Sept, 15-17 Sept, 22 -24 Sept.
Potential Hosts with a few hours to spare this autumn, who would like to get involved with something different, new and exciting can find out more by visiting http://www.torbayculture.org/culture-hosts/ . or by popping in to meet the team at one of the Culture Host drop in information sessions...
- BRIXHAM, Edge, Bolton Street, 1000-1300, Wednesday 9th August
- PAIGNTON, Palace Theatre bar, 1400-1700, Wednesday 9th August
- TORQUAY, Torre Abbey Education Room, 1000-1200, Saturday 19th August
Big is Not Always Best: Opening Up the Aid Budget to Small Charities Across the UK
I welcomed the creation of the Small Charities Challenge Fund earlier this month which will help small charities in the UK access funding from the Department for International Development. Organisations with an income of less than £250,000 a year are now able to apply for grants of up to £50,000 in order to help the people they are supporting in the worlds most disadvantaged countries.
I support our aid budget, but I know that many do not. We can all agree that it is essential that the money we do give is spent more effectively. I believe this fund will help to do that as often it is the case that community led organisations know best what delivers change on the ground. There will always be a key role for larger charities but that must not mean excluding many of those organisations linked to communities and charities here in the UK.
More information on how to apply for funding and what projects will be eligible can be found on the following website: www.ukaiddirect.org
Womens Rights to choose should apply to all parts of the UK
Thank you to all those constituents who contacted me about Stella Creasy MP's amendment. I have long made my position clear on supporting the right for women to have safe access to termination of pregnancy and thanks to the support of backbench MPs, myself included and led by Maria Miller MP, former chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, the government have agreed a way forward on this and the amendment was withdrawn. The government is now proposing that women from Northern Ireland who travel to England for a termination will no longer have to pay for this service, with the cost of this being paid for by the Government Equalities Office.
I welcome the cross party consensus that has prompted the government to make this sensible proposal. You can view the full letter from Justine Greening explaining how this is being taken forward.
Confidence and Supply
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has agreed to work with the Conservatives on a confidence and supply basis. This means that the DUP will support the Government on important 'confidence' votes such as finance bills and the Queen's speech. The DUP will also support 'supply' bills that allocate the funds for Government policies. While some of the DUP's policies will be taken into account by the government, such as keeping the pensions triple lock and winter fuel payments for all pensioners, their social policy positions on matters like same sex marriage and abortion are devolved issues and will not influence decision making in England. In any case, votes on issues such as this are votes of conscience and subject to a free vote by individual MPs. I have long made my position clear on supporting the right for women to have safe access to termination of pregnancy and on LGBT rights. I will always oppose the death penalty and the teaching of creationism in schools and there is no chance of these being introduced.
The deal allocates £1bn of extra funding for Northern Ireland, alongside greater control over £500m of funds that have already been committed to Northern Ireland. This does not increase funding to Scotland or Wales because it will not be subject to the Barnett formula. The terms of the agreement can be found here, and background on the financial aspect of the deal here.
One of the most serious concerns raised however, has been around the potential impact on the Good Friday Agreement. The Government must be vigilant in maintaining neutrality and also consult regularly with other Parties. The point has also been made that the extra funding available will ease some of the tensions that have acted as a barrier to the reestablishment of a power sharing executive in Stormont.
South Devon College celebrates even more success!
South Devon College was awarded the highest rating of 'Gold' under the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a system for recognising excellent teaching and learning in higher education.
The TEF Gold rating is further endorsement of the high standards of teaching, learning and support delivered at University Centre South Devon.
South Devon College has also received the prestigious Investors in People (IIP) Platinum accreditation, the highest level awarded by the people management standard. South Devon College is the only College in England to have achieved Platinum status and this prominent distinction confirms the College's status as not just a leading Further Education College, but also as a top employer in the country, as it joins the top 7% of accredited organisations across the UK.
Further recognition of the importance of South Devon College to the area was a recent £500,000 grant towards a 3G pitch as they enter the first phase of development for a new £3million community sports pavilion based at White Rock, adjacent to the Vantage Point campus in Paignton. This exciting development will aim to serve the community and inspire individuals to participate and enjoy spectator sports.
The purpose-built facility will ensure the delivery of education and training across the College's activities including South Devon High School, the further education and higher education curriculum and a range of apprenticeship programmes. Local students and the community will all benefit from state of the art resources and equipment.
Torbay residents: have your say on new council ward boundaries
The Local Government Boundary Commission are asking local people and organisations for their help to draw up new ward boundaries across Torbay. The Totnes constituency includes parts of Torbay.
The Commission has also announced that it is minded to recommend that the council should have 36 councillors in the future: the same as the current arrangement.
They are now drawing up a new pattern of wards to accommodate 36 councillors and need your help to tell where the new boundaries should be drawn.
You can submit comments via the following website
This consultation closes on 14 August 2017.
I visited Rowcroft Hospice last week and I will be running the Torbay Half Marathon this weekend (25th June) to raise funds for them as it is a great cause and helps so many people.
Acute Services Review Recommendations
Services such as stroke, maternity, paediatrics and neonatal care and urgent and emergency care were included in the first stage of the review. Other services will be reviewed in a later second stage.
Announcing the results of the first stage, clinicians said that all four acute hospitals in Devon, would continue with A&E, emergency stroke services and maternity services. This would be acknowledged by stronger collaboration between clinical teams and new networking and workforce solutions.
Other key recommendations include:
• 24/7 urgent and emergency care services (including A&E) should continue to operate at our four main acute hospitals – the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, North Devon District Hospital, Derriford Hospital and Torbay Hospital.
• Continuing to provide first-line emergency response for people experiencing symptoms of a stroke at all four hospitals. This will include rapid stroke assessment, diagnostics and thrombolysis. These services will be supported by 'Acute Stroke Units' (ASUs) at all four sites, and will ensure rapid intervention and aftercare for those with a stroke.
• Working towards clinical best practice to improve outcomes for stroke patients by developing two specialist 'Hyperacute Stroke Units' (HASUs) in Exeter and Plymouth where patients will receive 3 or more days of intensive treatment for their stroke immediately following emergency treatment, following which they will return home or to their local ASU.
• Retaining consultant-led maternity services at all four main hospital sites is proposed. These specialist units have access to 24/7 clinical care and the specialist services to provide more intensive care when that is needed.
• Delivering choice for home or midwifery-led births will continue to be provided in line with the national strategy 'Better Births'. Therefore, clinicians have recommended adoption of the strong evidence base for midwifery-led units co-located with consultant-led units.
• Maternity, neonatal and paediatric inpatient services will be retained at all four main hospital sites
The clinical recommendations are the first stage in the review. As part of the second stage, the recommendations will be tested in more detail to ensure they can be delivered with safe, cost-effective and reliable staffing solutions for the future.
Only once this assurance work is complete, can the recommendations be finalised. This is an important step, as the recommendations do not, at this time, immediately solve all the problems that drove the need to review these services.
Should the final proposals be likely to result in significant change to local services, the public will be fully consulted in line with the NHS' statutory requirements. A full timetable would also be developed and published.
A full briefing and a report of public involvement into this review is available on the Devon STP website
St. John's Community Café in Bridgetown, Totnes
Wednesday 5th July will see the launch of the St. John's Community Café in Bridgetown, Totnes. The community café will open weekly from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm and will offer excellent coffee, the finest teas, homemade cakes and other light refreshments. The café is centred on the church's aim of making it difficult to be lonely in Bridgetown, and wants to create a weekly space where anyone in the community can come and find a welcome, acceptance, friendship and support. The café will operate on a 'pay what you can' basis so that no-one need worry about coming because of a lack of finances.
Save the lives of others, while going about yours
It's National Blood Week from 19 – 25 June and we're helping to celebrate how blood donors make a difference every day, saving people whose lives depend on blood.
Over the last year 900,000 people have given up their time by donating blood to help patients in need. But we need 200,000 new blood donors to ensure that patients in the future have access to the blood they need, when they need it.
There is also an urgent need for 40,000 new black donors to improve the lives of thousands of patients with sickle cell disease. They need life-saving blood from black donors, which provides the closest match to their own. Together, we can vastly improve the lives the 15,000 people in the UK who live with Sickle Cell Disease and over 300 new babies born every year with the condition.
When you give blood, you can save someone's life while going about your own. All you need to do is give blood, and you'll be right there, helping someone when they need it.
Register to give blood. or call 0300 123 23 23 to find your nearest session.
NHS Health Fair 22nd June
A major NHS fair in Newton Abbot will enable people to find out about the latest health developments in South Devon and Torbay.
The CCG is bringing together a wide range of local organisations at the Avenue Church to show how groundbreaking developments link with traditional methods of healthcare to help people's wellbeing now and into the future.
Anyone wanting to attend is asked to email their confirmation to email@example.com or call 01803 652500.
Among the organisations taking part on 22 June will be Public Health, two GP practices demonstrating online consultations, Newton Abbot-based charity KingsCare, Healthwatch, and online health broadcaster Hiblio.
Pharmacists and GPs will be there to give health checks, as well as information or advice on issues such as weight, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol checks.
Also attending the health fair will be Torbay and South Devon Healthcare Trust, which runs Torbay Hospital.
The health fair begins at 10am, followed at 11.30am by the CCG governing body's annual general meeting (AGM), which will enable people to find out about the organisation's performance during the past year and its plans for the future
St Mary's Church, Totnes
Totnes with Bridgetown Parochial Church Council has embarked on a scheme to restore the magnificent fabric of St Mary's church, and to reorder the interior of the building so that it is more suited to modern community use. At the same time, Totnes Trust, which is dedicated to preserving heritage buildings and improving public spaces in the town, has embarked on a Heritage Area Project to make the area around the Church into one of the most attractive and unique historic areas in any small town in the UK.
The two organisations have come together to work on this project as a productive team. The resultant St Mary's Partnership has now been joined by Totnes Town Council as well. The Partnership believes that these projects can only succeed if the community are involved through extensive public consultation, and so there will be two stages of consultation at events to be held in the Church. The first stage will be an opportunity to contribute ideas, and will run between the hours of 10.00am – 4.00pm on:
Friday 9th June Saturday 10th June
Thursday 15th June Friday 16th June Saturday 17th June
The moving story of a Devon teenager who took illegal drugs and is paying the price.
Devon and Cornwall Police have released a heartfelt video showing the devastating effects of illegal drugs on a fifteen year old Devon teenager.
In the video, Harley tells how he took substances known as 'legal highs' when he was just fifteen. As a result, he suffered a near fatal stroke and is now struggling with life changing consequences. He was hospitalised for a number of months and he had to learn to talk, walk and feed himself again.
In a bid to prevent other young people from making the same mistakes, Harley is visiting schools in the South of Devon to speak face-to-face with the students and answer any questions they have. His honesty and frankness touch the hearts of those who meet him. He leaves the students with his emotive message "I paid the consequences, I wish I could turn back time".
If you have are aware of anyone who is supplying illegal drugs, contact the Police on 101, or you can give information anonymously to Crime Stoppers on Tel: 0800 555 111 or on line at www.crimestoppers-org.uk. Please quote Operation Venus.
Lifetime ISA and Personal Tax Free Allowance
From 6th April 2017 savers can start paying into the Lifetime ISA and the increase in the Personal tax free allowance sets in – benefitting millions of ordinary working people right across the United Kingdom.
Millions of people will see their take home pay increase because of this action to raise the Personal Allowance and introduce the Lifetime ISA.
The Armed Forces Covenant
The Armed Forces Covenant promises that veterans, the Armed Forces and their families receive the support they deserve. Enshrined in law in 2011, it ensures that members of the Armed Forces community are not disadvantaged in accessing Government and commercial services. Based on the principles of the Covenant, members of the Armed Forces can access:
- Recruitment services to those leaving the armed forces for two years after their discharge date through the Career Transition Partnership
- Specialist military and civilian doctors' services for issues such as mental health, trauma, and prosthetics, as well as the possibility of priority access to treatment if the condition is thought to be caused by time in service. These services can be accessed by notifying the GP that you are a military veteran
- Veterans' Welfare Service for the small minority of veterans who find themselves in custody, which helps those in prison and provides support to improve their lives on return to their communities. They can be contacted on 02392 702232
- High priority to social housing for seriously injured service personnel and veterans through local authorities, and there is a £200 million 'Forces Help to Buy Scheme'
- Specific advice on compensation scheme claims and on where to get help on benefits, pensions, loans and grants, emergency accommodation, finding a job, re-training, health issues, welfare concerns, service records and medals through Veterans UK. They can be contacted on 0808 1914 218
A new service called Veterans Gateway will be launched on the 22 May and will offer a 24/7 service for advice on issues such as housing, employability and health.
Lastly, the Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club provides an opportunity for veterans and serving personnel to meet in an informal setting and reengage with former colleagues – there is one in Newton Abbot and one in Torbay. Further details can be accessed here
South West Trains
The Department for Transport recently announced that the South West Trains franchise, which runs services from stations such as Exeter to London, has been awarded to First MTR, the operator for Hong Kong's busy metro. The deal will last for seven years and will ensure new and faster trains, more seats and services, improved stations and more flexible fare options along the line.
The changes do not affect trains running to and from Totnes, but if you're travelling to a station like Exeter in order to catch a South West Train, you should get a better service in the near future.
Ofcom's proposals for companies to pay automatic compensation
Ofcom has set out new proposals to require phone and broadband companies to pay automatic compensation – either a cash payment, or a credit on a bill – to customers who suffer slow repairs, missed appointments or delays to starting new services.
When a customer's landline or broadband goes wrong, that is frustrating enough without having to fight to get fair compensation from the phone company. So Ofcom are proposing new rules to force providers to pay money back to customers automatically, whenever repairs or installations don't happen on time, or when people wait in for an engineer who doesn't turn up. This would mean customers are properly compensated, while providers will be incentivised to work harder to improve their service.
Compensation payments would be set by Ofcom, and designed to reflect the degree of harm suffered by consumers. Here is how Ofcom's automatic compensation scheme would work:
|Problem||A landline or broadband customer would be entitled to compensation if...||Amount of compensation|
|Delayed repair following loss of service||Their service has stopped working and it is not fully fixed after 2 full working days||£10 for each calendar day the service is not repaired|
|Missed appointments||An engineer does not turn up for a scheduled appointment, or it is cancelled with less than 24 hours' notice||£30 per missed appointment|
|Delays with the start of a new service||Their provider promises to start a new service on a particular date, but fails to do so||£6 for each calendar day of delay, including the missed start date|
The Childcare Choices website has been launched
Millions of parents can pre-register for the government's new childcare offers, with the launch of a new website Childcare Choices.
The government's Tax-Free Childcare scheme will begin on 28 April, for parents of the youngest children. It will be gradually rolled out over 2017 – cutting childcare costs for working families across the UK by up to £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 for disabled children.
On top of this, from September this year parents of three and four year old children living in England will be able to apply for a new 30 hours free childcare offer, worth around £5,000 per child.
The Childcare Choices website includes a Childcare Calculator for parents to compare all the government's childcare offers and check what works best for their families.
Through the site parents can also pre-register for email alerts that will notify them when they can apply, as well as providing details of existing government childcare offers.
Suicide Prevention Report
The Health Select Committee, which I chair, released it's report in to suicide prevention today (16/03/17) and you may be interested to read it here.
I also spoke about this on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning and you may like to listen to this here. I spoke approximately 50 minutes in to the programme.
The Grove and Ball Copse at Churston
Work at woodlands in Churston in response to the Forestry Commission serving Statutory Plant Health Notices for the Grove and Ball Copse woodlands is currently taking place. For more information please click on the following link.
The Great Get Together
It's hard to believe but it will soon be a year since Jo Cox was murdered.
In the past year, a lot has happened, but nothing that has begun to ease the pain or fill the gap that Jo has left in our lives, and to mark the anniversary, it is hoped that communities and neighbours will get together, to share food and to celebrate what we hold in common. Jo's killing was aimed at dividing us and there is no better response to that, than a public showing of unity. It is hoped to show that no matter what party your vote for, where you come from or how you voted in a referendum - there is more that unites us than divides us.
As such you are invited to take part in 'The Great Get Together' by holding events on the 17 and 18th of June (the 16th is the actual anniversary) from street parties and picnics to shared barbecues and community bake offs with the aim of building one of the UK's biggest ever community events.
More information is available from the following website.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments and other public organisations. This is done without taking sides and the service is free.
The PHSO have just launched a new website to make it easier for people to find and understand how the PHSO can assist. The website will help get answers to straightforward questions and encourage on line complaints. It also features a complaint checker to help people complain to the right organisation at the right time.
I know that the recent Supreme Court ruling on the need for Parliament to give approval to trigger Article 50 has concerned many. My view however, is that we all benefit from an independent judiciary, doing their job free from political control and that this judgement has upheld the supremacy of Parliament.
The European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill is now before Parliament and you can follow its progress and read its short text here
I will be respecting the decision of the majority in the referendum and voting to give the Prime Minister the power to trigger Article 50. I will be following the debate closely and as chair of the Health Select Committee, scrutinising the implications to health, including public health, of Brexit and the Article 50 process.
The Modern Industrial Strategy and the South West
This week the government announced plans for a Modern Industrial Strategy which recognises that, though our economy is strong, its benefits remain unevenly distributed across the UK. You can read more about this here
Rural areas such as the South West have long been seen to be missing out in comparison to the London metropolis and the Northern Powerhouse and I was glad to hear plans for the South West include investment in local transport infrastructure, more flood defences and support for research and innovation. The Green Paper on Building Our Industrial Strategy has now been published and you can view it here
The government is consulting on the plans included in the paper and you can share your views up until the 17th of April 2017. You can find out how to contribute here
Exporting is Great Campaign: Support for International Trade
The PM has now given the most detailed speech we have heard yet on the government's plans for exiting the European Union. Those who were angling for a so called 'soft Brexit' will have been disappointed, but for all of us who wanted some more candid details about the government's post EU direction it was illuminating.
The PM unequivocally stated that we will not remain in the Single Market but provided reassurance that she will push for the greatest possible access to it. Nonetheless, I know many businesses will be now looking to see where future trading opportunities may lie outside of the EU.
Therefore I hope the many thriving enterprises we have in the constituency will be interested in the new government initiative that has been launched by the Department for International Trade. The department have instigated this following research indicating that many firms have the potential to export but do not and that those who do could significantly increase their exports with the right support.
Only 11% of UK businesses currently export and only around 6% of those target high growth economies such as India and China, so there is huge scope for growth in this area.
The initiative looks to support companies who are wishing to grow or secure international trade by connecting businesses with overseas suppliers, helping to search through export opportunities and providing preferential deals from a range of partners. There is also assistance available to help work out which e-marketplaces might be suitable for a business's goods and services.
As part of this campaign the Export Hub truck will be travelling the country and will be in the South West from the 13th until the 17th of March, more details about this will be available in due course via the following website.
To find out more information about the initiative in general please visit the following website.
Government's key objectives during the Brexit negotiations
The Prime Minister has today (17.01.17) clarified the Government's key objectives during the Brexit negotiations, and the principles which will guide it. Theresa May has confirmed that the Government will not seek to be in the single market. She has also been clear that no deal is better than a bad deal and she has called on the EU to approach these negotiations in the spirit of cooperation, to build a strong partnerships for the future. You can read the Prime Minister's full speech here.
I have also set out the Government's guiding principles and main objectives in the Brexit section of my website.
Pothole Action Fund
Representing a constituency with rural roads and lanes I often receive correspondence from constituents exasperated by potholes. I do appreciate people's irritation on this, however I also recognise the tough job that Devon County Council has in maintaining the largest road network of any local authority in Britain. Nonetheless, decent roads are vital in the countryside where driving is a necessity rather than a luxury.
Therefore it is welcome news that Devon County Council will be receiving £3,192,000 and Torbay Council will get £ 117,000 from the Pothole Action Fund, from which all road users will benefit. This funding is part of a £1.2 billion fund for local roads that the government is distributing to councils to help repair our essential transport links.
To see how many potholes will be filled in your postcode visit the following website
To see an interactive map of how many potholes are going to be filled in 2016/17 in your local authority area visit the following website
South Hams District Council has secured £1.8m from the Community Housing Fund
In the 2016 Budget, the Government announced it would provide funding for communities affected by second home ownership. Often, second homes stand empty for a large proportion of the time which can affect communities, the demographics of an area and distort local housing markets. The South Hams has just under 4,000 second homes which makes up over 9% of the total households, therefore the impact of second homes is acute in the area.
The Council provided a very robust case requesting a good proportion of the identified fund. I worked closely with South Hams District Councillors, Parliament was lobbied and I tabled a Parliamentary Question on the matter.
We were therefore delighted that our efforts have been recognised and that South Hams District Council will receive a £1.8m boost for affected communities.
Once full details of the scheme have been released, the Council will be in a position to plan for the next steps.
Competition and Markets Authority launch a study into Care Homes
On 5 December, the Competition and Markets Authority launched a study examining care homes for the elderly across the UK.
The study wants to hear about people's individual experiences when choosing a care home and whether or not there is enough protection under the current regulatory and complaints system. It will also look into whether cares homes are fulfilling their obligations under current consumer law.
With 430,000 elderly people in care or nursing homes throughout the UK, it is important that the CMA has a wide range of evidence to draw on when examining any practices which may be unfair. This matters because there have been concerns that those paying for their own care may in some cases also be cross subsidising those whose care is paid by the State. You can find out more about this and how to submit evidence here.
Cross Country Trains
The Managing Director of Cross Country trains, Andy Cooper, came to meet local MPs in response to our concerns about proposals to change the timetable which would involve axing important services. A number of trains which run directly from Newton Abbot, Paignton and Torbay to Birmingham, and on to Manchester, would be lost each weekday. A shortage of new train carriages for the network means Cross Country has chosen to reduce services for this region to relieve overcrowding elsewhere.
Cross Country apologised unreservedly for the lack of publicity given to the consultation, which will impose such drastic cuts to services for us in the South West. The proposed changes will hit our tourism sector and other businesses, as well as cause increased overcrowding and inconvenience for an area of the country already disadvantaged by low investment in rail services. I am totally opposed to the company trying to relieve overcrowding elsewhere in the system at our expense. I urge all constituents to sign the Herald's 'Save our trains' petition, and I will continue to work with colleagues to call on the Department for Transport and the